This Could Be the Start of a Rural Anti-Fracking Coalition

New RepublicThis Could Be the Start of a Rural Anti-Fracking Coalition. Landowners who lease their land to gas companies aren’t always pleased with the results.

When I first met George Hagemeyer in 2013, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation was in the process of drilling six natural gas wells in his backyard. America is the only country in the world where property rights commonly extend almost limitlessly beneath the surface, and George had leased his subsurface estate in the hopes of striking it rich in the fracking lottery. As a 150-foot-tall rig pounded segments of steel pipe into the earth, I asked George if he thought that anyone else should have any say over his decision to lease his mineral estate. The gas wells, after all, could degrade local air quality and harm his neighbors’ drinking water, and they were contributing to global warming. “Nope,” George responded. “It’s my land. I’ll do as I damn well please.”

George, like many other residents of Trout Run, Pennsylvania, in the Appalachian foothills, resides on a farm his father once owned. Locals with roads bearing their ancestors’ surnames can feel a sense of entitlement over their domain, and resentment toward government bureaucracies and environmentalists conspiring to regulate away their livelihoods and freedom to dispose of their land as they see fit. Leasing the land to the petroleum industry, in George’s view, is an affirmation of his sovereignty over his estate. It’s more than a little ironic that, a few years on from his decision to invite a petroleum company into his backyard, George’s complaints about the industry now echo those of Native American activists who’ve had pipelines foisted on them without so much as a by-your-leave.

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